Review: BMW M3 – Performance, Design, and Driving Experience

Since the late ’80s, the BMW M3 has been a standout in the 3 Series, attracting performance car enthusiasts. The new BMW M3 Touring adds practicality to this high-performance line, perfect for those who want a versatile vehicle for both track days and everyday use. The M3 offers customizable driving settings, balancing comfort and sportiness. With a powerful turbocharged six-cylinder engine and advanced adaptive suspension, it excels in both highway cruising and dynamic cornering. The M3’s interior boasts high-quality materials, sports seats, and an intuitive infotainment system. Though pricey and costly to run, it promises slow depreciation and comes packed with safety features.


What Our Readers Say About the BMW M3

Don’t worry: this isn’t some boring tale about a highway from Surrey to Southampton. Instead, let’s dive into the **BMW M3**, an iconic performance vehicle that stands a world apart from the road it shares its name with.

Since the mid-Eighties, the M3 has been the fastest and most thrilling version of the BMW 3 Series, building a loyal fanbase. Now, the **BMW M3 Touring** broadens its appeal even further.

The M3 Touring’s versatility means you can enjoy a few quick laps on a racetrack over the weekend and then load up its spacious boot with furniture on your way home. You certainly can’t do that with the **Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio**.

In this review, we’ll cover both the four-door M3 saloon and the M3 Touring. For those looking for a two-door coupe, check out our **BMW M4 review**. So, how do the BMW M3 and M3 Touring perform against competitors like the Giulia Quadrifoglio and the practical **Audi RS4 Avant**? Let’s find out…

Performance and Drive

How Does It Perform, and How Quiet is It?

Many modern performance cars give you control over various settings, but the BMW M3 takes this to another level.

Near the gear selector, you’ll find a button labeled **Settings**. Press it, and you can adjust everything from brake sensitivity to exhaust noise through the infotainment screen.

While the number of settings might seem overwhelming initially, BMW includes preset modes that work well right out of the box.

As you get more familiar with the car, you’ll appreciate the ability to fine-tune it to better suit your preferences. For example, you can leave the steering wheel in its lighter Comfort mode while keeping the engine in its most responsive setting.

In Comfort mode, the M3 is a surprisingly relaxed and refined daily driver. The turbocharged six-cylinder engine remains quiet at low revs, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly (no manual option is available).

The standard **adaptive suspension** allows the car to flow smoothly over uneven roads, with only minor jolts on rough sections.

For more spirited driving, the Sport setting offers firmer controls, ensuring you make the most of twisty country roads. It gives the steering a bit more weight, which helps you gauge your inputs more precisely without feeling heavy.

With **503bhp** at your disposal, the M3 accelerates from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds for the four-wheel drive (xDrive) saloon and 3.6 seconds for the M3 Touring. The two-door BMW M4 can reach 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.

Whichever version you choose, mastering the M3’s cornering capabilities takes a bit of time. The **front grip** and **rear traction** are exceptional. It’s not until you reach the M3’s limits that you can fully appreciate its abilities.

The latest M3 is far more engaging than the **Audi RS4 Avant** and more predictable than its predecessor. If the rear wheels lose traction in a corner, the resulting slide is easy to manage. Moreover, a 10-step **traction control** system lets you control wheel slip, unlike the all-or-nothing approach of the **Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio**.

The regular M3 saloon (badged **M3 Performance**) offers rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, while the M3 Touring comes with standard four-wheel drive.

The **four-wheel-drive system** is excellent, making the most of the car’s power in various conditions while allowing for rear-wheel drive fun.

Standard steel brakes do the job well, but carbon-ceramic options are available with the **M Pro Pack**. The standard brakes are somewhat touchy in town but consistently powerful otherwise.

Thanks to its impressive braking, the M3 lapped our test track faster than any other performance car we’ve tested.

Driving Overview

  • Strengths: Engaging driving experience, adaptable settings, comfortable ride
  • Weaknesses: Doesn’t have a particularly special engine sound


Arrangement, Fit, and Finish

The BMW M3 interior closely resembles that of any other BMW 3 Series but with enough unique features to stand out as special.

You get heavily bolstered sports seats with integrated headrests, **M-Division** colored seat belts, a bright red start button, carbon fiber trim, and a sport steering wheel with contrast stitching. Depending on your taste, the interior colors can range from classic black to flashy two-tone options.

The **driving position** is highly adjustable. The optional **M carbon bucket seats** are a standout. Positioned very low, they are perfect for taller drivers planning to hit the track. The **head-up display** projects essential information onto the windshield, and the **digital instrument panel** is configurable in multiple layouts.

A **10.3-inch touchscreen** handles infotainment tasks but can also be operated via a dial between the front seats, which is less distracting when driving. The layout is user-friendly, superior to the one in the **Audi RS4 Avant**.

The one downside is that BMW has removed the physical climate control switches in favor of touchscreen or voice control.

Gadgets include **Android Auto**, **Apple CarPlay**, **wireless phone charging**, **DAB radio**, a 16-speaker **Harman Kardon sound system**, and even gesture control. Standard safety tech includes front and rear sensors and a reversing camera.

Interior Overview

  • Strengths: High-quality materials, excellent driving position, intuitive infotainment
  • Weaknesses: Missing physical climate control switches

Passenger and Boot Space

How It Handles People and Cargo

A key attraction of the BMW M3 is its blend of **sports car performance** and **practicality**. There’s enough space in the back for two six-footers (three if you push it), though the optional carbon fiber front seats aren’t as knee-friendly as the standard ones due to their hardbacks.

The M3 saloon features a modest boot opening but can still hold up to seven carry-on suitcases. The M3 Touring estate, however, adds an extra 20 liters under the luggage lid, summing up to **500 liters** of storage space.

Both versions have **40/20/40 split-folding rear seats** for additional cargo space. The **M3 Touring** comes with a power tailgate and an independently opening window for quick access. Unfortunately, the saloon version lacks this feature.

Practicality Overview

  • Strengths: Versatile rear seats, impressive practicality (especially the Touring), spacious interior
  • Weaknesses: Saloon has a small boot opening

Buying and Owning

Costs and Ownership Experience

The BMW M3 may seem pricey compared to the **Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio**, but it aligns with the **Audi RS4 Avant Vorsprung**. Importantly, the M3 is expected to hold its value better over time, making it a smarter long-term investment.

Still, don’t expect it to be cheap to run. Our Real MPG tests showed an average of **26.3mpg**, decent for a car with over 500bhp but not particularly economical.

With high CO2 emissions placing it in the top 37% bracket for company car tax, running costs can be steep. In contrast, the **electric Porsche Taycan** is far more tax-efficient.

The M3 comes well-equipped, featuring **19-inch alloy wheels** at the front and **20-inch at the back**, leather interior, carbon fiber roof, and heated seats. Surprisingly, keyless entry is an extra-cost option.

Several optional packages bundle additional features, like the **M Carbon Package** with carbon exterior elements and bucket seats, and the **Ultimate Package** with laser headlights, keyless entry, advanced parking features, and extra safety tools.

While the M3 hasn’t been tested by **Euro NCAP**, the related 3 Series saloon received a five-star rating. Standard safety features include **automatic emergency braking (AEB)**, **lane keep assist**, **lane departure warning**, and **rear cross-traffic alert**.

In the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW ranked 12th out of 32 manufacturers, placing it above Alfa Romeo and Audi.

Cost Overview

  • Strengths: Low depreciation, comprehensive standard features, extensive safety kit
  • Weaknesses: Expensive upfront, high running costs

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a BMW M3 cost?

    Compared to the **Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio**, the M3 sedan looks quite expensive. The M3 Touring, meanwhile, is priced in line with the top-spec **Audi RS4 Avant Vorsprung**. For the latest prices, see our New Car Deals pages.

  • What is the M3 Touring’s 0-62 mph time?

    With a 503bhp engine, the M3 Touring is very quick, officially sprinting from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds. The four-wheel-drive M3 Performance sedan is even faster (3.5 seconds). The M3 CS is still faster, but it has sold out in the UK.

  • Is the BMW M3 available as an estate car?

    Yes – the **M3 Touring**. It has performance that more than matches the saloon version but with the added practicality of an estate car.

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